Awards for art are arbitrary and completely useless designations. They’re akin to annual dog and pony shows where beautiful, talented people come together to celebrate themselves with a three-hour circle jerk that rarely achieves a satisfying conclusion. The internet has proved a lightning rod for people to argue endlessly, sucking the small flecks of joy that could be gleaned on those tarnished gold statues, which still hold a surprising amount of our interest. Awards become interesting whenever something new emerges and challenges the status quo—when something shiny can claw its way out from a mountain of rust.
There’s a few very interesting movies scattered throughout this year’s Academy Award nominations, most notably Bong Joon-Ho’s masterpiece “Parasite.” Any self-respecting lover of cinema should have seen it by now. Taika Waititi’s “JoJo Rabbit” is an incredibly original, well-crafted peculiarity. Buried within the technical nominations is Robert Eggers’ moody masterpiece, “The Lighthouse.” Another cinematic gem hiding in plain sight: the mesmerizing, touching urban fantasy, “I Lost My Body.” It’s hidden in the best animated movie category, sandwiched between whatever G-rated garbage Disney is churning out to help sell more toys and tickets to theme parks. “I Lost My Body” is a surprising piece of dramatic cinema that tells a very human story, while creating a beautiful landscape of magic, mystery and mutilation.
We witness a horrific, seemingly impossible scene of a severed hand working its way through a laboratory, trying not to be discovered. We follow the journey of the disembodied limb as it struggles to reconnect with the body from which it has been separated. It’s a journey that takes it through a series of encounters which range from harrowing to absolutely terrifying. There are moments in the animated film that are more frightening than any traditional horror film I’ve seen in recent memory.
After the introduction to the undead digits, we meet Naoufel (Hakim Paris), a less-than-stellar delivery boy for a local pizza place. He lives in a crowded apartment, has a dead-end job and his prospects are extremely limited. One night, while on another botched delivery, he converses with a woman through an intercom and finds himself drawn to learn more about her. He takes the limited information he has and tracks her down in a move that could be considered either incredibly romantic or borderline creepy. Based on the audience’s current level of faith in humanity, Naoufel is either a hopeless romantic or incel stalker.
He’s able to create continued contact with Gabrielle (Victoire Du Bois) by getting a job in her building as an apprentice to an aging superintendent. Naoufel gets his first taste of freedom: a job, a place of his own and a chance to get to know Gabrielle better. Their relationship slowly blossoms as they bond over life’s little intricacies and some classic literature. Writer/director Jeremy Clapin does an excellent job creating engaging characters and a realistic world. Everything about this story is grounded and wonderfully juxtaposed by surreal scenes of a hand making its way through an unforgiving city.
The film is exceptionally well-directed, with remarkably strong visual storytelling. I’d recommend the movie to aspiring filmmakers to show how to properly pace and stage a scene. There’s flow to every scene as well as masterful storytelling; no shot is wasted, no moment unintentional. Every frame seems necessary.
It’s also an absolutely beautiful movie. So many modern, animated films are pointless, over-polished, over-produced pieces of content … but not this one. It’s an artistic vision that proves animated movies can be so much more than kids’ stuff.
With any luck, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Science will bestow an Oscar to “I Lost My Body” and reward this unique vision. Though I’m guessing they’ll just do what they always do and give it to whatever Pixar—the Meryl Streep of animated Oscar nominees—craps out.
“I Lost My Body” is currently available on Netflix and completely worthy of your time.